Dear History, please forgive me.
Since the Women’s March, I have been lost. A place I am now learning so many live in throughout their lives.
I am waking up from the dream I have been living in that I am a very evolved and loving woman in this country. I thought for all of my life, until yesterday, that I was a much more informed and intelligent and inclusive person than I actually am. I thought because I did not treat people of color differently, surely I was a better and more accepting person than many in our country. That it was simply enough to love all people for who they are regardless of their race or ethnicity or gender or sexual orientation or economic status. I would defend myself to the death that I am not a racist, I believed that I was a better person for not seeing a person for what they looked like but who they showed me to be through their actions and words.
That was my naiveté. That was the comfort rock that I was living under for all of my life. That I was doing the right thing for all of us by loving unconditionally the humans on this planet for who they are not what they appear on the outside to be. That would be good enough in another world where the history was not so rich with the scars of racism, sexism and hate that we bear still today.
I went to the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. with the intention of demonstrating against this new administration’s blatant discrimination towards people based on color, gender, ethnicity and lower economic status. I went because I wanted to be a voice standing against the tyranny of my race over others. I wanted to join the solidarity movement because I am after all an ally, I thought. I also felt like I had been wronged and wanted to take a stand for the pain and fear I was feeling in regards to my own life.
While I had the best of intentions and walked away from the march feeling I did the right thing, I came to find in the coming days that not only was this not enough (which I knew on some level) but that my understanding of my role in this movement was much different than I previously thought. I thought that by being accepting, tolerant and by what i understood as being color blind that I was doing my part. By loving people openly I was advocating for more understanding between people of all backgrounds.
What I learned from a friend of mixed race, was that I am not evolved enough. I am a white woman who does love people for who they are but that by being color blind I am not seeing part of their story. This was so hard to hear and really uncomfortable to sit with. I cried thinking that this was just more hate and hurt being perpetuated because of the intolerance around the country. That I cannot be wrong because I do not see race when I look at someone. I was really uncomfortable with the fact that I, as a white woman, was being told I was not allowed to be a part of the movement because of my race.
What I then came to understand as we talked and as I dug deeper into the issue, was that I was uncomfortable with the fact that I wasn’t doing enough by being color blind and by marching with women of color. I was marching next to women of color but not seeing them or understanding part of who they are and their history.
There are so many people with multitudes of skin colors and those I want to train myself to see and educate myself to understand. There are so many injustices that are coming to the surface right now, that I know there is a lot of effort that needs to be put into improving our understanding of one another. Part of that acceptance and love for all people is educating yourself on the history of these issues and meeting new people outside of your circle or hearing an old friend’s story. It is going to come from being honest with one another about our relationships to one another. We have to talk about the hard topics and see things we may not realise are there through someone else’s experience.
History, I am sorry that I have been naive enough to think we were past you. I am sorry that I allowed myself to live in a false utopia where racial lines and biases were fading away. Unfortunately history, you are the scars so many bare when navigating this still divided nation. I am sorry we have reopened those scars. We must work to heal them in a way where our voices are equally heard, our bodies are treated equally and our hearts strengthened with the knowledge of the places we all come from.
I am not sorry for being white. I am sorry for the oppression my skin color still causes. I am not sorry for being a woman. I am sorry that I have used my womanhood as an excuse for having a smaller voice. I am not sorry for being gay. I am sorry I hide my love for another woman from many of you. I am not sorry that I have a chronic illness. I am sorry that I do not share my scars so you feel comfortable enough to share yours too. I am sorry my presence at the march was misunderstood. I am not sorry that I marched in the Women's March,
Moving forward from here, I am going to take time to hear more stories. I am going to talk about the uncomfortable role that I play in our history and in the present. if I can do anything with my privilege, I want to use it to shed light on the fact that only by hearing and understanding the person sitting next to you fully with respect to their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and their economic status can we heal the wounds we inflict upon one another.
all images belong to Tara Layman Photography.